Windows 7 Versions for Dummies

People are already complaining about the six versions of Windows 7 that Microsoft will release. They should be reminded that Vista had the same number as did XP (Embedded, Starter, Home, Media Center, Tablet PC, Professional, Professional Corporate). The editions are Starter, Home Basic, Home Premium, Professional, Enterprise, and Ultimate.

Windows 7 employees a scheme more like XP originally was, either you’ll use Home Premium or Professional (Professional inherits all the features of Home Premium, unlike Vista Business). In Vista, not all of Home Premium’s features made it into Business edition, which left all users that wanted the Media Center features and Active Directory support with the overpriced Ultimate edition. Windows 7 Ultimate is more or less a non VLK version of Enterprise plus the Media Center features (I suspect the Media Center stuff will not be there in Enterprise despite claims of the contrary by others). End users in developed countries will never see Windows 7 Starter or Home Basic, and in most cases Enterprise.

Here’s a nice decision flow chart for those who are confused (and live in a developed country (e.g.,  USA, Canada, UK, Japan, etc.)):

Windows 7 Edition Selection Guide (for Consumers in Developed Countries)

-John Havlik

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Daylight Savings Time Ending

Vista now warns you when Daylight Savings time is going to end.

Vista’s little time clock/calender is much better than the one in XP. Not only does it make checking dates easier, it also warns of impending doom (err. Daylight Savings Time starting/ending).

So it’s that time of year when signing up for spring semester classes begin. Once in upper division once every two semesters a one year plan must be filled out and a meeting with an adviser must occur prior to singing up for classes. Today, I was assigned my advisement date and time, and I went to check what day of the week it would be–they only gave a date and something about it seemed wrong (turns out they sent the wrong time and date). Upon clicking on the taskbar clock, I was greeted by a message warning that Daylight Savings Time ends on Sunday, November 2nd. This was a surprise as XP did not even warn when it would work its DST magic–Windows 98 would warn after it automatically changed the clock.

-John Havlik

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Refreshing Vista

The installation went fast, the updates, on the other hand did not. Rewind a bit, back to a few weeks ago. Some troll over at Digg was spamming links to shock sites. One of them causes thousands of popups of shock images to display. It also happens to take advantage of some security flaws in many web browsers. That was last week, but going back a bit further the real odd behavior began.

It began with Adobe Flash security warnings. They were triggered by advertisements (flash based advertisements should be illegal for more than one reason) that are part of the Microsoft Mojave campaign. The warning stated that code in the flash object attempted to redirect about:blank to some other address. One would think a large corporation such as Microsoft would keep its advertisements out of the realm of malice, but then again they are still spamming stats with fake arrivals from their live search service.

Even though the Flash warning was odd, it was not the thing that was really bad. Out of nowhere no execute bit errors start killing Firefox. Most of the time on a website with an Adobe Flash based advertisement. Did I mention I believe Flash based advertisements should be outlawed–and all websites that have them should be added to the malware harboring website lists?

Well, after having enough of the stupid NX bit errors, Firefox and Flash player were reinstalled. No luck, the problems still occurred. Time for drastic measures, reinstall Vista time. After backing up the few files not on my home server (running Gentoo Linux), the Vista DVD made its way into the DVD drive. After rebooting and clicking through some options, the installer did its thing. Fifteen minutes later–surprisingly fast–the familiar welcome screen appeared. First order of action was installing the WiFi driver. Rather than before I let the additional intel tools to be installed. Surprisingly, I’m connecting at 802.11N speeds all the time now (verses when ever Windows felt like it before). Next up was the graphics driver. Previously, the dell driver did not allow the one distributed by intel to be installed so I was running a year old driver.

Then Windows Update in its infinite wisdom decided to try grabbing over 30 updates. Naturally, there was no dependency handling causing numerous blue screens of death at boot. To compound the issue I had at one time tried to install about ten of my commonly used programs. After the first blue screen of death, and doing a system restore, they were all missing (System Restore shadows many more things than it used to). Instead of trying to reinstall the programs again, I focused on the Windows updates.

That is when things became fun. Not only does Windows Update not properly handle dependencies, it seems to always have problems installing more than twenty or so updates at a time. Even worse, it seems to generate error codes that are random when encountering this situation. Another fun fact is Windows Update seems to not check the hash sum of the updates it downloads until it attempts to install them. If the hashes at that time do not match it returns an error code instead of redownloading and trying again as it should. Installing only four or five updates at a time, along with the oldest first seems to help. However this is taking forever. If I wanted to spend two full evenings working on this I would have installed Gentoo, which I would be done installing by now as well.

-John Havlik

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Vostro 1400’s 5.1 Surround Sound

Believe it or not the Vostro 1400 does have built in 5.1 Surround Sound and can drive analog outputs for such a setup. The plug-order from left to right on the front of the laptop is front (green plug), center/sub (orange plug), rear (black plug). After plugging into the ports, go to your control panel, and open up the SigmaTel Audio panel. Under the “Jack Setup” tab right click on each of the jacks (which each should have a green check mark over if you have plugged something into them). In the pop-up menu select the appropriate setting. Then back in Control Panel go to the Sound Panel select the Speakers/Headphones option/device and click on the configure button, select “5.1 Surround” in the Audio channels list. Continue on through the setup and when done everything should work in full 5.1 surround goodness. Naturally, the on board sound isn’t as good as the sound from my X-Fi, but I don’t have the 5.1 breakout box for the X-Fi yet. Dell’s choice to place the audio jacks on the front of the Vostro isn’t the best of design choices as they get in the way of the keyboard a little bit. However, it really isn’t that bad.

I really wish all laptop manufactures would standardize on a common docking station interface which would consist of a PCI Express x16 connector plus an express card interface located in the port (plus power of course), which in the base station would allow for full sized x16 graphics card to be installed and either a normal PCI, x1 card, or express card to be installed as well, plus 4 or so USB ports on the dock. That way you can game with the laptop when docked (Geforce 9800GT anyone?) yet get the power benefits of having an IGP while mobile (I really enjoy my 5+ hours of battery life with the normal 6 cell battery).

-John Havlik

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Creative X-Fi Xtreme Audio Express

A package arrived from ebay today, it was the X-Fi Xtreme Audio Express Card for my Vostro 1400. Hopefully I’ll be able to find the 5.1/7.1 extension for docking with my speakers. Sound wise, it’s much better than the on board sound, which through the internal speakers is not that great. It’s not that bad, but with external speakers the on board sound is much better, and the X-Fi is that much better. Vista didn’t automagically get things working right away (sort of disappointing since everything else just worked). Creative is now better with their driver installer as they allow just installing the driver without the other added software (read as more or less crapware). Software installation was quick and painless, required a reboot as I chose to install ALchemy. Some actual testing will occur later this weekend.

-John Havlik

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